Japan-inspired station buildings to gradually take the world by storm

One thing that may surprise tourists when they visit Japan, is the highly sophisticated and efficient network of railways. Subways run seamlessly throughout central Tokyo and the Yamanote line makes a circle around the 23 municipalities that make the special wards of Tokyo, while dozens of JR and other lines run to and from the capital. Most of the main stations that connect these various railway lines have a large retail facility within the same building.

A station building (known as an ekibiru) is the expansion of buildings that house railway stations, to include retail and other facilities. Japan has a long history of station buildings that began with the Hankyu Railway’s Umeda station Hankyu headquarter building completed in 1920, followed by other private railway stations in the Kansai region. In the Kanto region, the first opening was in 1931 when the department store Matsuya became part of Tobu Railway’s Asakusa-kaminarimon station (currently Asakusa station). After the war, Japanese National Railways (currently JR) established stations around Japan called minshū-eki, which had station facilities on the 1st floor and retail facilities on the 2nd floor and above. The JR group was formed in 1987 after the privatization and division of Japanese National Railways, and took over the railway business while expanding its station building business, which is the base of what LUMINE represents today.

Shinjuku station has LUMINE1, LUMINE2, LUMINE EST Shinjuku and NEWoMan which opened in March 2016, all of which are LUMINE buildings significant to the company. In 2015, sales figures for Shinjuku LUMINE (LUMINE1 and LUMINE2) summed up to 47.8 billion yen, while LUMINE EST Shinjuku estimated 45.8 billion yen. These numbers combined are close to the sales volume of Narita International Airport (97.2 billion yen) which is Japan’s No.1 shopping center in terms of retail sales. It is for example, similar to having the duty-free shops at France’s Charles de Gaulle Airport or Germany’s Frankfurt Airport inside a train station of a metropolitan city. Shinjuku station welcomes 3.7 million people a day, which comes out to more than 1.3 billion visitors annually. LUMINE has attained success not from depending on this vast and favorable number of station users, but rather its dedication to continue to refine, improve and create the market.

The latest NEWoMan is a new type of facility that ‘creatively destructs’ the existing perception of LUMINE and is different from any other LUMINE or department store. Covering all genres from fashion, lifestyle, beauty and health to food and culture, NEWoMan offers the best of the world. The facility opened just 3 months ago, but it has been off to a great start with an outstanding number of women coming into stores.

In other economically developed countries, station buildings are still uncommon. In Europe where train stations are particularly old and traditional, they are perceived as ‘a place to catch a train’, and Germany’s Leipzig Central Station (which was inspired by JR) as well as Switzerland’s Bern Central Station are rare examples of where a retail facility and train station have been unified. More recently, there have been cases where station buildings have been renovated or rebuilt such as Milano Centrale station, which was beautified for Expo 2015 and New York’s 59th St-Columbus Circle station, which opened a restaurant/food court this April. In 2015, LUMINE opened a location in Singapore and is preparing to continue spreading ‘Japan-inspired station buildings’ around the world. As other businesses in the industry are also looking into similar opportunities, it will not be long until the concept of these Japan-inspired station buildings take the world by storm.

1,2 NEWoMan / Shinjuku Japan
3 Milano Centrale station / Milan Italy
4 TurnStyle located / Columbus Circle, New York USA